This summer has some extra challenges for teenagers and their parents. Because of Covid 19 restrictions, many summer activities have been canceled, recreational centers are closed, and health officials recommend avoiding close contact with others. More and more news stories focus on health issues during this pandemic– not only physical health but mental and emotional health as well. How can you get your teens to take an interest in their health?
Set a Good Example On Health
You probably don’t realize how much your behavior influences that of your teens. Take a look at your own health habits and consider whether you set a good example. No one is perfect, but we all probably have some bad health habits that we should change. This summer presents a good opportunity for you to have an honest conversation with your teen. Discuss your own health shortcomings and make a deal to work together to make healthy changes in both of your lives.
Discuss ways that you and your teen can enjoy physical activities together. Find something you both enjoy, or agree to alternate between your choice and theirs. You can go hiking or biking at a local park, or enjoy a sport together. Take up golf, tennis, shoot some hoops – anything that gets you both moving and lets you spend time together. Involve technology with exercise, like doing geocaching together, or wearing Fitbits.
If outdoor activities don’t work for you, find indoor activities. Do exercise videos together, or put on music and dance. Challenge each other to achieve milestones with a treadmill or exercise bike. Make it a fun competition.
You and your teen can also make a deal to cook healthier meals together, or challenge each other to gradually eliminate a bad habit. You give up smoking if they give up junk food. You don’t have to go cold turkey. Set reasonable goals and track your progress. Agree on incentives for reaching certain milestones.
For emotional health, be sure to encourage your teen to talk about their feelings and moods. Try not to jump in and tell them they shouldn’t feel that way. Listen first and try to understand life from their perspective. Let them know it’s ok to feel angry, bored or frustrated that they can’t be with friends or do the things they usually like to do. It’s ok to feel negative emotions, but you want to avoid holding on to them. Let them know that it’s always ok to ask for help if they feel overwhelmed by their emotions.
Help your teen to learn how to process and deal with negative feelings. Acknowledge the feelings, try to find out why you feel that way, and develop strategies to change how you feel. It’s not as easy as just choosing to be positive. You could check out some videos about dealing with negative emotions. Ted Talks, YouTube, and streaming services have many helpful videos on emotional and mental health. Encourage your teen to research coping strategies that they would want to use.
During this time, many people are reaching out for mental health assistance, to help manage the added stress and to stay calm. Not being able to be with friends is especially difficult for teens, who generally value peer relationships more than family. Find ways for your teen to safely interact with friends, like video chatting or visiting outside – but at a distance.
Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and promote calm. Encourage your teen to try meditating with an online podcast or with an app, like headspace, that offers free guided meditations. They may also enjoy other calming activities like Tai Chi, yoga, or even arts and craft projects.
If your teen’s behavior or moods give you cause for concern, then reach out to a counselor or therapist for help. Many now offer video or phone sessions. Some communities have free or low-cost counseling centers or support groups for specific issues. Make sure to tell your teen there is no shame in getting help when needed.
When Help Is Needed
If your teen is struggling with severe behavioral, psychological, or emotional issues, or you suspect drug or alcohol addiction, it is definitely time to find professional help. These situations do not get better without intervention. You can work with a local therapist or treatment program, or send your teen to a therapeutic boarding school. Sometimes the best option is to remove your teen from the harmful influence of friends, access to drugs, or an environment that contributes to their issues.
A therapeutic boarding school provides teens with a safe living environment, intensive therapy, academic programs, physical activities, and health monitoring. They also teach teens to take responsibility for their own lives and actions, and how to develop healthy relationships with others.